Tuesday 14 February 2017

Parenting ain't nothing but a number

The saying goes, 'age ain't nothing but a number', and the more I think about it, this can easily apply to being a parent too.

It all starts when the thin blue line appears and you discover you are going to have a baby and become a parent. You see the doctor, meet the midwife and your whole life becomes about numbers. How many weeks' along you are, how many weeks you have left until you're due, the due date itself, your bump measurements and where you come on the tracking scale, your blood pressure reading, your blood test results, how many things you have on your list to buy, the number of names you have on your 'like' list (and how many vetoes you give your partner)...

It's all about the numbers.

Throw in the pregnancy books, magazines and blogs you read and you're head will be swimming with ideas and numbers and trying to make sense of it all.

The baby is then born and it's all about what date they were born, what time, how much they weighed, how long you were in labour, how long you were in hospital for, how long they sleep for, how much milk they drink and how often, how many cold cups of tea you haven't drunk, how many times you got up in the night, how many hours are left to get some sleep...

As your child grows, the obsession with numbers continues. How many days, weeks and months old they are. How much they weigh, how long or tall they are. How much milk they drink, how long until you start weaning, how many veggies they're getting. Do you watch how much TV or iPad time they have? What time do you put them to bed? How long to they sleep for, and how many times do they wake up? And what time do they wake up?

Every stage and every decision seems to come down to numbers.

How long will you have off for maternity leave? How many months' in are you, and how many do you have left? How many baby classes do you go to? How old will your child be when you take them to nursery? How many days will they be there for? How many hours each day?

Then, of course, you start to get asked 'how long until you'll have another baby?'. 'How many children do you want?'. 'How old are you again?'

As parents, we're quite complicit in the number counting. We learn during pregnancy that our life now comes down to numbers - dates, times, measurements - and this continues. It's almost like a parenting obsession. How many, how much, how long.

We all make remarks about the passing of time, as if it's a surprise. It shouldn't be a surprise , we've been counting and tracking since the beginning!

Parenting starts as counting down - to birth, to the end of maternity leave, to starting school but it's also a game of adding up. Milestones, experiences, memories.

I think our obsession with numbers can actually make us miss the moment; always looking ahead to the next thing on our list, on the 'ABC' of raising a child. If we are always counting - be it down to a date or up to a milestone - we could actually be missing the moments that count.

I've always said that the journey to become mum is one that never ends and if we took a little time to look around and take it in, rather than worrying if we are going to make a destination on time, or if someone else might get their faster than us, we might enjoy the journey all the more.


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